Churchill Downs sued over ‘illegal’ Baffert ban

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The owner of Arkansas Derby winner Muth has sued Churchill Downs Inc. and is seeking a temporary injunction against what it called the track’s “illegal” ban of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert that keeps the colt he trained from competing in next month’s 150th Kentucky Derby.

The historic track initially suspended Baffert for two years on June 2, 2021, following a failed postrace drug test by colt Medina Spirit, now deceased, who crossed the finish line first in the 2021 race but was later disqualified. Churchill Downs extended the ban through at least the end of 2024 in July and cited “continued concerns” about the safety and integrity of racing that Baffert posed to CDI-owned tracks.

Zedan Racing Stables filed the suit Tuesday in Jefferson Circuit Court in Louisville and asserted that the ban of Zedan and other Baffert-trained horses from running in the milestone Derby on May 4 “has no basis in law or in fact.” A release from Zedan’s public relations firm on Wednesday suggested the ban was fueled by CDI CEO Bill Carstanjen’s personal vendetta against the two-time Triple Crown winner.

ZRS founder Amr Zedan said bringing the lawsuit is the “last thing I ever wanted or expected. But due to Bill Carstanjen’s vindictive personal vendetta against our stable’s trainer Bob Baffert — who happens to be one of the most legendary trainers in the history of our sport — the horse racing industry I revere is being compromised.”

Baffert, in a text to ESPN’s Marty Smith, said, “While I am not a plaintiff in the lawsuit [recently brought] by Zedan Racing Stables against Churchill Downs, I would like nothing more than for the horses I train to have an opportunity to run at Churchill Downs.”

A hearing is scheduled for Monday.

A CDI statement called Zedan’s lawsuit the latest meritless attempt to relitigate Baffert’s suspension and said lifting it now would threaten the safety and integrity of races at Churchill Downs by changing the qualification rules just before the Derby.

It added: “The same issues in this complaint have been decided by the courts and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, which have repeatedly upheld Baffert’s suspension and the disqualification of Medina Spirit.”

Muth won last week’s Arkansas Derby by two lengths, but the ban denied him the 100 points that normally would automatically qualify for the Derby. The colt has won both starts as a 3-year-old and four of six career starts with two seconds for more than $1.5 million in earnings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This post was originally published on ESPN

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